SPITTLE SPATTER as America weighs into FCC net neut shoutgasm

America reacts to Wheeler's open web plan

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Roundup This morning, FCC bigcheese Tom Wheeler outlined his plans for firm net neutrality rules - and hence, the regulation of internet access.

The issue has long been a source of argument and wrangling, and the responses to the news have demonstrated what we already knew: there is seemingly no middle ground on the issue.

Verizon sparked the entire situation by challenging the FCC's previous internet access rules in court, and winning. That put the FCC in the position where it had to come up with something.

Verizon wanted very loose regulation, under section 706; many others, including President Obama, had different ideas. It looks like Barry has won, and Verizon's aggressive legal stance has backfired badly.

Here's what the telco's head of public policy and government affairs, Michael Glover, had to say:

Heavily regulating the Internet for the first time is unnecessary and counterproductive… the FCC can address any harmful behavior without taking this radical step. Moreover, Congress is working on legislation that would codify open Internet rules once and for all… Heavy regulation of the Internet will create uncertainty and chill investment among the many players -- not just Internet service providers -- that now will need to consider FCC rules before launching new services.

To jump to the other end of the spectrum, Public Knowledge, which has long been a net neutrality advocate was naturally delighted. Its VP of government affairs, Chris Lewis, had this to say:

This is an historic announcement by Chairman Wheeler, and a decision that consumers have been demanding for some time… we are very encouraged by the Chairman’s announcement today… His approach uses a scalpel, not a cleaver, to avoid subjecting broadband providers to parts of Title II that may not be applicable to their services. We appreciate this thoughtful approach and look forward to seeing its details.

Heading back to the other side, the cable industry is not exactly jumping around with glee. National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO Michael Powell is, to put it bluntly, pissed:

Chairman Wheeler's proposal to impose the heavy burden of Title II public utility regulation on the Internet goes far beyond the worthy goal of establishing important net neutrality protections. It will result in a backward-looking new regulatory regime, ill-suited for the dynamic Internet, with far reaching and troubling consequences.

We believe that such a significant expansion of the FCC’s authority is unnecessary and will only deliver further uncertainty instead of legally enforceable rules that everyone supports… The important protections that President Obama and others have supported – no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization and transparency of business practices –can be enacted without the significant regulatory baggage that comes with public utility regulation.

Likewise, the wireless industry, which Wheeler has decided he will also pull under the new Title II rules for the first time. CEO of CTIA, The Wireless Association, Meredith Attwell Baker is non-plussed and has been the first to question the FCC's legal authority to make such rules:

We are concerned that the FCC’s proposed approach could jeopardize our world leading mobile broadband market and result in significant uncertainty for years to come because the FCC lacks congressional authority to impose Title II public utility regulation on mobile broadband services… American consumers rely on will be placed at risk by the FCC applying intrusive regulatory restrictions on mobile broadband for the first time.

But back to the happy people. Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman, who members include Airbnb, Amazon, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, reddit, Twitter, Uber, and Yahoo!, among others, was pleased:

Internet companies are pleased to hear that Chairman Wheeler intends to enact strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable net neutrality rules that include bright-line rules that ban paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online.

The details and implementation of the proposal matter, and we look forward to seeing the text of the order to ensure that a free and open Internet is fully protected… We thank Chairman Wheeler for including equal treatment of wireless and fixed broadband connections in his proposal. There is only one Internet, and users expect that they be able to access an uncensored Internet regardless of how they connect.

Meanwhile, Senator Ron Wyden, who has long be an advocate for net neutrality rules both tweeted and blogged his delight:

Millions of American small businesses, consumers and innovators spoke and Chairman Wheeler listened. Without the open Internet, start-ups will never leave the garage. The FCC should adopt this proposal and ensure that monopolies are never allowed to slam the door on American innovation.

And, lastly, from the man who helped start the whole net neutrality public outcry, Adam Green of Progressive Change Campaign Committee:

If Chairman Wheeler protects Net Neutrality through reclassification, that's the kind of big, bold idea that Americans are crying out for… It will be the fruition of a decade-long fight by grassroots activists on the left and right against old, entrenched corporations that want to stifle free speech and innovation online in order to enrich themselves.

Reclassifying the Internet as a utility - equally accessible to all - is hugely popular with voters of all political stripes, who don't want old corporations writing the rules.

So there you have it: the Wheeler rules will either save the internet for all, or send us down a rabbit hole of regulation that will impact every one in America. ®


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